Monday, November 17, 2003
Senate Democrats Block Confirmation of Brown and Kuhl
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
President Bush’s nominations of two California jurists to influential federal appellate courts were blocked Friday by Democrats in the U.S. Senate.
Efforts to cut off debate on the nominations of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit were rejected by near party-line votes.
Senators cast identical votes of 53-43 in favor of invoking cloture on the two nominees. But Senate rules require 60 votes to dispense with the chamber’s traditional practice of allowing unlimited debate.
Zell Miller of Georgia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska were the only Democrats to join the Republican majority in support of the two nominees. Others in the minority party blasted the pair as “right-wing ideologues” who cannot be trusted to uphold civil rights, abortion rights, workers rights and environmental protections.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., noted the impending holiday as part of the explanation for his party’s approach.
“My suggestion is that (President Bush) release all of his right-wing turkeys,” he said.
Brown’s supporters, including a group called the Committee for Justice, say the former legislative aide to Gov. Pete Wilson is the ideal candidate to the federal bench, a daughter of Alabama sharecroppers, who went from “abject segregated poverty to affluence in career and society.”
But she has several dozen national and local detractors, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein said last month she thinks Brown is too hostile to the government to serve in such a post.
Kuhl, the supervising judge of Los Angeles County civil courts, was nominated on June 22, 2001. Sen. Barbara Boxer said Kuhl’s record as a judge and a Reagan administration lawyer was troubling.
Democrats have criticized Kuhl for her anti-abortion views and support of a tax exemption for South Carolina’s Bob Jones University, which lost the exemption because of the school’s racially discriminatory practices.
She earlier told the Senate Judiciary Committee she accepts the Supreme Court’s abortion-rights jurisprudence as settled law and would follow it. She also said she regretted her role in the Bob Jones case, in which the position she argued was rejected by the high court, 8-1.
Democrats also described as “troubling” Kuhl’s dismissal of an invasion-of-privacy suit by a woman whose doctor allowed a prescription drug salesman to observe her breast examination without telling her who he was. Supporters responded with a letter from Presiding Court of Appeal Justice Paul A. Turner of this district’s Div. Five, who wrote the Court of Appeal decision reinstating the case but said that Kuhl made “a tough call in the context of competing legal interest.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is a supporter and has called Kuhl “really a very good judge.”
Democrats Friday also blocked, for the fourth time, the nomination of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to the Fifth Circuit. The vote was 53-42 to invoke cloture on Owen, with Miller and Nelson again siding with the GOP.
The three votes followed the Senate’s longest nonstop debate — 39 hours — since a 57-hour, 24-minute marathon in 1988 over campaign legislation.
Six of Bush’s federal court nominees have been blocked so far, but Democrats pointed out that they have confirmed 168 others, and said the GOP put up roadblocks to 63 of President Bill Clinton’s choices.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company